Indie Beat Podcast Talks To Film Festival Creative Director Rachel Morgan

Ravenous Indie Beat fans, it’s been a minute, but the wait is now over. On this episode, we spoke to Rachel Morgan, creative director for the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama.

Morgan started out as a volunteer at the festival, splitting her time screening submissions and canvassing for the event while also producing industry commercials and documentary films. Slowly but surely she worked her way up to a programmer position, finding her passion in exhibiting all sorts of movies for a vast Alabamian audience. In addition, she also nurtures young cinephiles, teaching university filmmaking and lecture classes.

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We’ve spent a lot of time talking to filmmakers, but Indie Beat was always meant to cover other parts and positions of the indie film world. Having a dedicated festival programmer has been something we’ve wanted to do for awhile, mainly because leaning more towards filmmaker interviews can tend to mean leaning towards rants about film festival culture… which is fine, there are often valid concerns within every diatribe and, at the end of the day, it’s healthy to get that kind of thing off of your chest.

But it’s easy to forget that festival programmers, in addition to serving filmmakers, have to consider their audience as well — which means having to keep their potential diverse audience in mind when selecting what to screen. And although festival rejection letters tell you, almost comically, that they’ve received a record number of submissions — well, they ain’t lyin’. None of this means your film is terrible and it’s admittedly difficult to keep this in mind within the context of fifteen wordy “No!” e-mails. One of the coolest things that Sidewalk Film Festival does — and something we wish more festivals would practice — is that they handwrite and personalize their rejection letters. While it still is bad news, it’s a lot less cold when you can feel the human behind it — it’s not an indifferent, seemingly robotic form rejection. They’re often sincere, thoughtful writings, a welcome contrast to an industry/scene that can be needlessly brutal.

We go deeper into these topics with Rachel on the podcast. She also describes what the year-long preparation process is for a film festival, what movies she finds too much of, the ideal length of a short film, and many other things. Give it a listen, check out Sidewalk, and don’t forget to “Like Us On Facebook!